Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Tahera Ansari – Identification and characterisation of a stem cell source for tissue engineered bowel

A project aiming to create a ‘biological scaffold’ for growing bowel tissue – the first step to revolutionary bowel transplants using tissue engineered from the patient – based at St. Mark’s Hospital, London


IBD often causes irreparable damage to bowel tissue, which means it needs to be surgically removed. At the moment, you only get one bowel, but advances in tissue engineering mean that may not be the case forever.

Transplanting bowel tissue from other people at the moment is highly risky and leads to problems with the immune system. A better option would be to be able to grow bowel tissue using cells from an individual patient, then use this to replace damaged tissue. This project at St Mark’s sought to develop a model for doing this. Although the results present a mixed picture, they have led to advances and further work is still being undertaken. It represents one of the most ambitious and potentially revolutionary pieces of research work BDRF has ever funded.

Further information

Project final report

Tom Pinkney – A mechanistic evaluation of the interaction between appendicectomy and the clinical course of Ulcerative Colitis 

A project looking at whether taking out the appendix has a beneficial effect in reducing flares and inflammation in Ulcerative Colitis – based at the Institute of Immunology & Immunotherapy; Institute of Cancer Studies, University of Birmingham


A number of small studies suggested removal of the appendix could reduce the likelihood of UC flares, medication use and even prevent future major surgery. Naturally, this is something that warranted further investigation and BDRF granted funds to a team in Birmingham who wanted to delve deeper.

These researchers identified a number of interesting factors, including cell interactions happening in the appendix unique to patients with Ulcerative Colitis.  As a result, major research in the form an international trial is now underway, which could prove removing the appendix should be used as a treatment for patients with UC.

Further information: 

Publication in BMC Surgery Journal

Matt Lee – A study to find out the best methods for assessing and treating anal Crohn’s fistulae, building a consensus on optimum care among clinicians.

Research to identify how best to treat Crohn’s anal fistula – based at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals


Around 1-in-3 people with Crohn’s will develop an anal fistula, which require complex specialist treatment. Anal fistula is an extremely debilitating problem which can blight and destroy lives for years at a time. Excruciating pain, problems with continence and severe, frequent infection are just some of the effects of this devastating condition. Understandably, anal fistula can utterly erode the self-esteem of people who have to live their life fighting it, destroying their confidence to go about their daily life. Many patients miss months of work or school because they are either in too much pain or simply feel unable to face the outside world due to shame and embarrassment.

Many strategies and different operations are used to try and help, but the chances of success are currently far too low.

Surgeons simply don’t yet know what the best method of therapy is and successful outcomes to treatment are elusive and can take a very long time. Our researchers identified a glaring lack of good-quality research into how treatment can be improved, and even about what current treatments work the best. Their study served as a call to arms for researchers in the field of bowel disease and allowed the ENIGMA Project to be born. A UK-wide team of researchers are now developing the world’s gold standard quality of life measurement for anal fistula patients, and are working flat out to identify the optimum treatment plan.

Further information:

Publication in the British Journal of Surgery


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